GCSB Bill A Threat To Anti-TPPA Campaigners

- Jane Kelsey

Jane delivered this speech at the Auckland rally which was part of the July 27th National Day of Action Against the GCSB Bill. Ed.

When the news broke about the GCSB’s (NZ Government Communications Security Bureau) illegal spying on 88 New Zealanders* I had a rush of calls from the media asking if I thought I was one of them, especially because of the international campaign against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. I said I don’t know. How could I know? I wrote to the GCSB and they said it would jeopardise NZ’s security to tell me. So I still don’t know. But I have pretty strong suspicions that give the lie to the claim that spying is not a problem if you have nothing to hide. *See Peace Researcher 45, June 2013, “Crime Pays! Government Legalises GCSB Culture Of Impunity”, by Murray Horton, http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/pr/45/pr45-001.html.Ed

The campaign against the TPPA aims to stop our Government and 11 other governments from concluding an Agreement that is designed to empower foreign states and mega-corporations at the expense of the wellbeing of New Zealanders, and protect of our democratic right to decide our futures and our ability to honour te Tiriti o Waitangi. The US government, on behalf of US information technology (IT) industry and other corporations, is also demanding the TPPA has enforceable rules to prevent governments from imposing privacy rules to prevent the free flow of information. We know, thanks to Edward Snowden, that private firms are already trawling communications and meta-data on behalf of governments.

Nothing we are doing to stop this Agreement is illegal. We analyse boring and tedious documents. We educate people about the consequences. We lobby. We do press work. We talk with negotiators from many of the countries involved, and sometimes do work to assist them in understanding the implications. We hold regular teleconferences to share information we have gleaned and to discuss strategies.  It seems ironic that they can withhold basic information on these negotiations on the grounds of confidentiality to ensure effective negotiations, but we have no control whatsoever over the confidentiality of our private communications.

I Repeat, None Of What We Are Doing Is Illegal

We are merely attempting to bring fundamental democratic principles to bear on a secret, anti-democratic negotiation. As a taxpayer funded academic it is also about discharging our responsibilities as public intellectuals, and the statutory responsibility of universities to act as critic and conscience of society. Why do I think the GCSB has already been spying on us? Some will recall back in 1996 the SIS (NZ Security Intelligence Service) was caught burgling Aziz Choudry’s house*. One of the legal documents disclosed in the case that Rodney Harrison brought against the Government was an interception warrant signed by Prime Minister Jim Bolger – not the week before the Asia Pacific Cooperation (APEC) Trade Ministers’ meeting in Christchurch, which was the immediate context of the burglary, but many months before. It may well have been a rollover of previous warrants. Aziz was a key activist in the campaign against neoliberal globalisation, as well as supporting Maori sovereignty and other perfectly legal activities. *See Watchdog 92, December 1999, “Aziz Choudry Wins Case Against SIS. Out Of Court Settlement; Damages; Government Apology”, by Murray Horton, http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/92/3aziz.htm. Ed.

After that, the SIS law was changed to define their functions to include protecting New Zealand from activities that “impact adversely on New Zealand’s international and economic wellbeing”. What constitutes a threat to that “wellbeing” is defined by those in power. Prime Minister Helen Clark once described those of us who opposed the now derailed Doha Round at the World Trade Organisation as “wreckers”. The same term was apparently used at the recent joint NZ US forum of Government and business people to describe opponents of the TPPA.

Do I Trust That They Are Not Monitoring Our Campaign? Hell No

It seems obvious to me that, if the GCSB is to assist the SIS in matters over which it has warrants, then clearly they will be trawling the meta-data as well as the substance of our communications. It is also going to pass that on to the US and other countries. Why does it matter? First, we know that this Government is hell bent on shutting down opposition to the TPPA. When the December 2012 TPPA Round was in Auckland even those of us registered as “stakeholders” were locked out of the Convention Centre aside from the narrow “stakeholder” day on the pretext of insufficient space. The truth was revealed in the hitherto secret “pokies for convention centre” negotiations, where the Government has demanded that critics like us are not even allowed to hire a room to hold an event, if they deem it contrary to NZ’s international interests. As the negotiations reach the point of political tradeoffs, as they are about to do, the stakes will increase. We can expect that the communications and data being collected will be shared across the countries involved.  This has especially serious consequences for those in countries even less tolerant than our own.

There are participants in this network from Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, all of which have draconian international security laws that have been used by governments to shut down dissent. (In July 2013), when the TPPA Round was in Malaysia, 14 people holding a peaceful picket outside the venue were detained on the spurious grounds they were suspected of drug taking and by law, they could be detained to undergo compulsory drug tests. More information from our spy agencies about their participation in perfectly legal activities will be very dangerous for them. So we have a duty to fight this law, just like we have a duty to fight the TPPA. The two are intimately interconnected. But more than stopping this draconian legislation – we must demand the repeal of the other State surveillance powers they have aggregated over the past two decades.


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